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shewhomust

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A busy week: two movies, two rivers, the sea - and more [Apr. 16th, 2016|10:45 pm]
shewhomust
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In the last week, among other things, we have been to the cinema twice (for some reason, both films included a piece of the Flower Song from Lakmé), been to two book launches (by coincidence, both books brought together images with poetry by a number of poets; that being the case, it's no coincidence that some of the same poets were at both launches) and entertained a house guest (D., who is still with us, except that he has gone out to do his own thing this evening). In brief, then:

First film: Anomalisa
Peter Bradshaw's glowing review in the Guardian; Mark Kermode's more ambivalent review in the Observer.
Does that excuse me from producing an opinion of my own? The midlife crisis of a motivational speaker, staying in a corporate-type hotel before giving a corporate-type speech. Here he meets a young woman who seems different from everyone else. This is familiar territory. But the actors are stop-motion puppets, which is not only an interesting gimmick but opens up possibilities: Lisa genuinely is different from everyone else, she has her own face and voice, while all the other characters (except Michael himself) have the same face and are voiced by the same actor. There's something called the "Fregoli delusion" apparently, which is that everyone is really the same person, and this is referenced in the name of the hotel - the Fregoli Hotel. So that was a clever reference that I didn't pick up on, and had to have pointed out to me. On the other hand, I did spot that the film on the tv in Michael's room was My Man Godfrey, and wonder why (because, says the internet, unlike Casablanca, it is in the public domain).
Extremely clever, and the character of Lisa is actually very touching. These two things ought to enhance each other; yet I react as if they were in conflict.


First book launch: Two Rivers and the Sea
Inspired by the work of Rachel Carson, poet Lisa Matthews ans visual artist Melanie Ashby spent a series of four residencies on the Northumberland coast, the circuit of A Year in Beadnell. They blogged, they took photographs, they filmed life in the rock pools, they wrote poems, they invited other poets to visit and observe with them, and they have published this record of the year.


Second film: Marguerite
Strange enough that there should be one film about Florence Foster Jenkins, but stranger still, two have come along at the same time. This is not the one with Meryl Streep, this is the other one, the French one, "based on a true story" but fictionalised. This has the drawback that you can no longer point to the story it tells and say "Incredible though this seems, it happened." It has the advantage that you are free to tell whatever story you wish, and to relocate it to the 1920s, with all the fun that offers: the frocks! the Dadaists! The tone wanders uncertainly between comedy and pathos, and there are aspects of the story whose truth I questioned which have nothing to do with Florence Foster Jenkins. But I didn't feel I'd wasted my time.


Second book launch: NORTHbound
Vane Women celebrate their silver anniversary with an anthology built around Pat Maycroft's photographs. The women themselves and invited guests contributed poems inspired by one of Pat's photos, and many of the contributors were present at today's launch, so we had an unusual reading at which each poet read a single poem. Highlights included Pru Kitching's Franz Kafka in Durham City (a moody black and white view up a vennel that could well be in Prague's Old Town), Diane Cockburn's Heloise takes the Veil (a cat at a lace curtained window) and Bob Beagrie's Amanita Muscaria (what it says in the title, with Andy Willoughby taking second voice, reading the 'shadow poem', so that I half thought the magic was in the performance until I saw how ingeniously the poem was built on the page).


Bonus art exhibition: Cercle d'Art des Travailleurs de Plantation Congolaise
The NORTHbound launch was at mima, and while we were there, we saw the current exhibition of sculptures by Congolese plantation workers. I wish I had taken my camera. Failing that, imagine a bright white room containing a number of brown sculpted figures and portrait heads, and interspersed with leafygreen potted plants. Each piece is moulded from clay, scanned and the data transmitted to somewhere (I've forgotten where) in Europe where it can be reproduced in Belgian chocolate through multiple technologies, including 3D scanning and printing. Evidently the purpose of the project is to generate income for the cocoa plantation workers, and who knows how suitable a material chocolate is outside this context. I'd have photgraphed, too, the sign on the wall saying that mima was supporting the project by purchasing one of the pieces for £3000 (through a gallery which would take its usual 50% cut): surely the starkness of the statement was intended to make me want to photograph it?
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: sovay
2016-04-17 06:59 am (UTC)
Highlights included Pru Kitching's Franz Kafka in Durham City (a moody black and white view up a vennel that could well be in Prague's Old Town), Diane Cockburn's Heloise takes the Veil (a cat at a lace curtained window) and Bob Beagrie's Amanita Muscaria (what it says in the title, with Andy Willoughby taking second voice, reading the 'shadow poem', so that I half thought the magic was in the performance until I saw how ingeniously the poem was built on the page).

These sound wonderful.
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[User Picture]From: shewhomust
2016-04-17 05:33 pm (UTC)
Interesting. I mean, yes, I thought they were wonderful, and there were other fine poems I'd have mentioned in a more leisurely post. But I thought if anything snagged your interest here, it'd be the Year in Beadnell project!

Though, speaking of Diane Cockburn, have I pointed you to her Electric Mermaid yet?
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[User Picture]From: sovay
2016-04-17 06:36 pm (UTC)
Though, speaking of Diane Cockburn, have I pointed you to her Electric Mermaid yet?

No: that's great. Thank you!

I wanted to see the photographs from the titles and the brief descriptions, and I wanted especially to read the poem in two voices.
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[User Picture]From: veronica_milvus
2016-04-17 05:20 pm (UTC)
OK, this is weird. I was at the Vane women Northbound launch too - in MIMA yesterday... I stayed on for Julie Hogg's debut pamphlet launch.

I know Pru, Diane, Bob and Andy from various poetry events. I'm supposed to be having lunch with Pru on Friday.

Edited at 2016-04-17 05:20 pm (UTC)
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[User Picture]From: shewhomust
2016-04-17 05:28 pm (UTC)
Nothing weird about it - we knew it was going to happen sooner or later!

We didn't stay for Julie Hogg's launch, because our guest had quite a tight schedule. Did it go well? And how did you enjoy the NORTHbound event?

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[User Picture]From: veronica_milvus
2016-04-17 08:01 pm (UTC)
Julie is a friend of mine from the Middlesbrough Black Light Engine Room poetry nights - her launch was packed out, she has one heck of a fan club. Her debut pamphlet is very good, and beautifully produced by Vane Women with a fabulous cover by Pat Maycroft.

The Northbound set - stunning photos and a more mixed bag of poems, I thought, which is inevitable if you have an anthology. Bob and Andy's mushroom poem was terrific and I think my favourite reading from the book was probably Pippa Little's "Dog After the Drench".
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[User Picture]From: durham_rambler
2016-04-18 10:17 am (UTC)

Anomalisa

One detail that struck me from this film was that I found the interactions at the start with the taxi driver, the desk clerk, the porter, were all the ghastly formulaic “have a nice day” customer service responses and I sensed that the Michael character shared my reaction. Yet his motivational speech and evidently his book are supposed to tackle this and make these interactions more individual and human, and allegedly they work: “90% improvement in productivity”. There's a dichotomy there which I thought was part of the point of the film.
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[User Picture]From: shewhomust
2016-04-18 11:05 am (UTC)

Re: Anomalisa

Good point (though I'm not sure the taxi driver was entirely on-message).

I was thinking something similar from the opposite end, that his message about customer service was that everyone is a distinct individual, which is entirely opposite to his own experience. Yet you could build an equally valid argument from 'Other people are like you, treat them as you'd like to be treated'.
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